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Zola Budd

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Title: Zola Budd  
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Subject: European junior records in athletics, 1986 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Athletics at the 1984 Summer Olympics – Women's 3000 metres, List of world junior records in athletics, 1985 IAAF World Cross Country Championships
Collection: 1966 Births, Afrikaner People, Athletes (Track and Field) at the 1984 Summer Olympics, Athletes (Track and Field) at the 1992 Summer Olympics, British Female Athletes, British Long-Distance Runners, British Marathon Runners, British Middle-Distance Runners, Female Long-Distance Runners, Female Marathon Runners, Female Middle-Distance Runners, Former World Record Holders in Athletics (Track and Field), Iaaf World Cross Country Championships Winners, Living People, Masters Athletes, Olympic Athletes of Great Britain, Olympic Athletes of South Africa, People from Bloemfontein, South African Autobiographers, South African Emigrants to the United States, South African Expatriates in the United Kingdom, South African Long-Distance Runners, South African Marathon Runners, South African Middle-Distance Runners, South African People of British Descent, South African Sportswomen, Sport and Apartheid in South Africa, White South African People
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Zola Budd

Zola Pieterse
Zola Pieterse, 2012
Personal information
Nationality South African
Born (1966-05-26) 26 May 1966
Bloemfontein, Orange Free State, South Africa
Sport Middle-distance running
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)

1500 m: 3:59.96
1 Mile: 4:17.57
3000 m: 8:28.83

5000 m: 14:48.07

Zola Pieterse (born 26 May 1966), née Zola Budd, is a middle-distance and long-distance runner. She competed at the 1984 Olympic Games for Great Britain and the 1992 Olympic Games for South Africa, both times in the 3000 metres. In 1984 (unratified) and 1985, she broke the world record in the women's 5000 metres. She was also a two-time winner at the World Cross Country Championships (1985-1986). [1][2] Budd's career was unusual in that she mainly trained and raced barefoot. Since 2008 she has been living in South Carolina with her three children, competing at marathons and ultramarathons. She volunteers as assistant coach at Coastal Carolina University in Conway.[3][4]


  • Women's 5000 metres world record 1
  • Arrival in Britain 2
  • 1984 Olympic 3000 metres 3
  • International competition 4
  • Controversy, marriage and return to South Africa 5
  • Relocation to USA 6
  • Cultural impact 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Women's 5000 metres world record

Budd, who was born in Bloemfontein, Orange Free State, South Africa achieved fame in 1984, at the age of 17, when she broke the women's 5000 m world record with a time of 15:01.83.[5] Since her performance took place in South Africa, then excluded from international athletics competition because of its apartheid policy, the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) refused to ratify Budd's time as an official world record.

In 1985 she claimed the world record officially, while representing Great Britain, clocking 14:48.07.[6]

Arrival in Britain

The Daily Mail, a British tabloid newspaper, persuaded Budd's father to encourage her to apply for British citizenship, on the grounds that her grandfather was British, to circumvent the international sporting boycott of South Africa, so that she could compete in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. With a strong push from the Daily Mail, British citizenship was granted in short order and she moved to Guildford. Her application and arrival was controversial due to her acquiring a passport under preferential circumstances. Groups supporting the abolition of apartheid campaigned vociferously and effectively to highlight the special treatment she received; other applicants had to wait sometimes years to be granted citizenship, if at all.

Shortly afterwards Budd was forced to pull out of a 1500 m race in Crawley, Sussex, when the town council withdrew their invitation at short notice. The race was part of the inaugural event for the town's new Bewbush Leisure Centre and Mayor Alf Pegler said members of the council had expressed misgivings, that the local significance of the event would be overshadowed by "political connotations and anti-apartheid demonstrators".[7]

She ran her first competitive race on the cinder track at Central Park in Dartford, Kent, covering 3000 m in 9 mins. 2.6 seconds in a race shown live on the BBC's Grandstand programme.[8] She ran in further races in Britain, including the UK Championships 1500 m (won in 4m 4s) and the 3000 m in the UK Olympic trials, which she won in 8 mins. 40 secs., earning a place on the British Olympic team. In the 2000 m at Crystal Palace in July 1984 she set a new world record of 5 mins. 33.15 secs.[9] Commenting during the race for the BBC, David Coleman exclaimed, "The message will now be flashed around the world – Zola Budd is no myth."

1984 Olympic 3000 metres

In the 1984 Olympics, held in Los Angeles, California, the media billed the 3000 m race as a duel between Budd and American world champion Mary Decker, few reporting that a third contestant, Romanian Maricica Puică, had set the fastest time that year.

Decker set a fast pace from the gun with Budd in close pursuit, followed by Puică and Britain's Wendy Smith-Sly. When the pace slowed just past the midway point, Budd took the lead on the straight and ran wide of the pack around the turn. Setting the pace, she took herself, Decker, Smith-Sly and Puică clear of the pack, an unusual situation for both Budd and Decker, both of whom were used to running in front and well ahead.

At 1700 metres, the first collision occurred. Decker came into contact with one of Budd's legs, knocking Budd slightly off balance. However, both women maintained their close position. Five strides on, at race time of 4' 58", Budd and Decker again made contact, with Budd's left foot brushing Decker's thigh, causing Budd to lose her balance and sending her into Decker's path. Decker's spiked running shoe came down hard into Budd's ankle, just above the heel, which drew blood. Videotapes later examined by Olympic officials showed Budd visibly in pain. However, Budd maintained equilibrium and kept stride.

Decker, now very much off balance, fell forward and crashed onto the infield, catching hold of the number on Budd's back, which tore free. Decker was unable to resume the race due to an injury to her hip.[10]

Budd, deeply affected by the occurrence, continued to lead for a while, but faded, finishing seventh amid a resounding chorus of boos. Her finishing time of 8' 48" was well outside her best of 8' 37". Writing in her autobiography years later, Budd stated that she deliberately slowed down to take herself out of contention, because she couldn't face collecting a medal in front of the hostile partisan crowd. Budd tried to apologize to Decker in the tunnel after the race, but Decker was upset, and replied, "Don’t bother!".[11] Puică took gold, with Sly in second, and Canada's Lynn Williams the bronze.

Although Budd was jeered by the crowd, an IAAF jury found that she was not responsible for the collision. Decker said many years after the event: "The reason I fell, some people think she tripped me deliberately. I happen to know that wasn’t the case at all. The reason I fell is because I am and was very inexperienced in running in a pack."[12]

In general, it is the trailing athlete's responsibility to avoid contact with the runner ahead; whether or not Budd had sufficient control of the race to have pulled into the curve as she naturally did, was hotly disputed. "This doesn't mean," track journalist Kenny Moore wrote in the aftermath, "that a leader can swerve in with impunity, but that in the give and take of pack running, athletes learn to make allowances."[13] At first the US media sided with Decker, while the British press supported Budd.

In 2002 the moment was ranked 93rd in Channel 4's 100 Greatest Sporting Moments. On an episode of Celebrity Come Dine with Me, Budd stated that to this day that she has never seen footage of the collision.

International competition

Budd competed internationally for the UK in 1985 and 1986. In February 1985, she was World Cross Country Champion (beating Ingrid Kristiansen), but then went on to several track defeats. The most significant of these was her rematch with Mary Decker-Slaney at Crystal Palace in July 1985, in which she finished fourth, some 13 seconds behind Decker-Slaney.

Budd's form improved significantly after this race, however, as she then went on to break the UK and Commonwealth records for the 1500 m (in 3:59.96), the mile (4:17.57), the 3000 m (8:28.83) and the 5000 m (14:48.07). This last reduced the world record by ten seconds. She was also victor in the European Cup 3000 m. Her best times in the 1500 m, mile run and 3000 m were set in races with Decker-Slaney and Maricica Puică. Budd finished third in all three races, with Decker-Slaney and Puică consistently coming first and second respectively.

1986 began with a defence of her World Cross Country title and a world indoor 3000 m record of 8 m. 39.79 s. However after a couple of victories in fast early season times over 1500 m (4:01:93) and 3000 m (8:34:72), her outdoor track season brought several defeats by athletes she should have beaten easily. She competed in both the 1500 m and 3000 m at the European Championships, but did not win a medal in either, finishing 9th and 4th respectively. It later emerged that Budd was suffering a painful leg injury for much of the season: she did not compete in 1987 as she sought treatment for this.

Controversy, marriage and return to South Africa

In 1988 she began to compete again with a handful of cross-country runs. However, several African nations claimed that she had competed in an event in South Africa (Budd claimed she only attended the event and did not run) and insisted she be suspended from competition. The International Amateur Athletics Federation upheld this charge and suspended her, at which point Budd returned to South Africa. She retired from international competition for several years, but returned in time to represent South Africa in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, competing in the 3000 m.

In 1989 Budd married Mike Pieterse. The couple have three children, daughter Lisa and twins, Azelle and Mike. On return home, Budd began racing again in South Africa. She had an excellent season in 1991 and was the second fastest woman in the world over 3000 m. Following South Africa's re-admission to international sport she competed in the 3000 m at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, but did not qualify for the final. In 1993 she finished fourth at the World Cross Country championships, but would never translate this form on to the track. Budd published her autobiography, Zola (co-written with Hugh Eley) in 1989.[11] Budd remains the holder of numerous British and South African records at junior and senior levels and still holds two junior world records; the mile and the 3000 m.

Relocation to USA

Following allegations of her husband having an affair with former Miss United Nations South Africa Agatha "Pinkie" Pelser,[14] and Budd taking out a Restraining Order against Pelser following a police-supervised seven hour gun siege after Pelser threatened Budd and her children,[15] the couple divorced in 2007.[16] After Pieterse later sued his former lover for fraud in 2007,[17] Pelser committed suicide in 2010.[18]

Under her married name, Pieterse and her three children relocated to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA in August 2008, later joined by her husband Mike.[16] She initially had a two-year visa that allowed her to compete on the US masters' circuit, is a volunteer coach at Coastal Carolina University Chanticleers track team and has raced in the South Carolina division of USA Track and Field, winning the women's division of the Dasani Half-Marathon during Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon on 14 February 2009 with a time of 1:20:41.[19][20]

Budd's children also compete: at the 2 May 2009 Orangeburg, South Carolina Festival of Roses road race, after winning the women's 12 km. event, she watched her daughter Lisa (17) win the girls 5 km. 12–19 age group at 30:17, followed by her niece Claudia (21) at 31:36.[21]

On January 12, 2012, she announced her participation in the 2012 edition of the nearly 90-kilometre (56 mi) Comrades (ultra)Marathon which was held on June 3, 2012.[22][23] She would also participate in the Two Oceans Marathon during the Easter weekend of 2012 as she trained towards the Comrades Marathon which she ended up finishing in 8:06:09 (she was the 37th female finisher). Although she planned to also run the Comrades in 2013 she withdrew due to illness. [24]

In June 2014 Budd entered the Comrades again, hoping for an overall silver medal and for a time under 7 hours 30 minutes (7:30:00).[25] Budd beat her time target, finishing with a time of 6:55:55 and earning the gold medal as the 1st 'veteran' (senior) finisher while coming in as the 7th female finisher overall (the first six being at least 10 years her junior).[26] Budd dedicated her 2014 Comrades run to South African teacher Pierre Korkie,[27] held captive in Yemen by Al-Qaeda for one year.[28] She was stripped of her 'veteran' gold medal (but not of her cash prize for finishing 7th overall) following accusations that she did not display a small age category tag on her running vest, in addition to the veteran designation already displayed on her running bib.[29] Budd and her coach pointed out that the veteran gold medal and silver medal were then given to two runners who also did not have the small age category tag on their running vests, and announced in September 2014 that they had started court proceedings against the Comrades Marathon Association to have her veteran win reinstated.[29][30]

In March 2015, Budd won the Run Hard Columbia (SC) Marathon, with a time of 3:05:27. [31]

Cultural impact

In South Africa today, township taxis are nicknamed "Zola Budd" for their speed. The singer Brenda Fassie (whom Time magazine called "the Madonna of the townships" in 2001) had a hit single in the 1980s with her track "Zola Budd". On 20 July 2012 BBC Radio 4 broadcast a play by Richard Monks about the political and media actions taken to bring Zola Budd to Britain with her father at the age of 17, the script implying she was unwilling and homesick.[32]


  1. ^ Mackay, Duncan; Meldrum, Andrew (10 August 2005). "Zola Pieterse finds peace in native land". The Guardian (London). 
  2. ^ Wooldridge, Ian (9 April 2003). "Zola deserves warm welcome after all we put her through". Daily Mail (UK). 
  3. ^ Zola Budd Pieterse: 'I couldn't ask for anything more', Eddie Wooten, 2014.
  4. ^ Zola Budd Pieterse wins Charleston Marathon, David Quick, The Post and Courier, 2014-01-18.
  5. ^ Driscoll, Dennis G. (6 July 2004). "Barefoot Running: A Natural Step For The Endurance Athlete?". Master Track & Field News – Daily Newsletter from Ross Dunton, USA. Archived from the original on 20 March 2005. 
  6. ^ "1985: Budd smashes 5,000m record". BBC On This Day. 26 August 2005. 
  7. ^ "SPORTS PEOPLE; Miss Budd Withdraws". The New York Times. 19 April 1984. 
  8. ^ "Dartford Harriers History". Dartford Harriers Athletic Club. 
  9. ^ Perkiömäki, Mika. "World Record progression in women's running events". World-Wide Track & Field Statistics On-Line DoIt. 
  10. ^ Galford, Ellen (1996). The XXIII Olympiad. Los Angeles: World Sport Research & Publications Inc. p. 184.  
  11. ^ a b Zola Budd; Hugh Eley (1 January 1989). Zola: The Autobiography of Zola Budd. Partridge.  
  12. ^ Parker-Pope, Tara (1 August 2008). "An Olympic Blast From the Past". Well – Tara Parker-Pope on Health. 
  13. ^ Moore, Kenny (20 August 1984). "Triumph And Tragedy In Los Angeles". Sports Illustrated. 
  14. ^ Independent Newspapers Online. "Zola left in tears yet again". Independent Online. Retrieved 16 July 2015. 
  15. ^ "Zola Budd wins court order against gun siege woman". Mail Online. Retrieved 16 July 2015. 
  16. ^ a b "Olympic Diary: Budd rolls back the years but time can't heal Wade's wounds". The Independent. Retrieved 16 July 2015. 
  17. ^ "'"Pieterse: Pinkie 'defrauded me. News24. Retrieved 16 July 2015. 
  18. ^ "Pinkie Pelser found dead". News24. Retrieved 16 July 2015. 
  19. ^ Longman, Jeré (27 October 2008). "An Olympian's Path Toward Inner Peace". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 April 2010. 
  20. ^ Running COach Sets Record – The (Myrtle Beach, SC) Sun News, 15 February 2009
  21. ^ 2009 Orangeburg SC Festival of Roses 12k/5k Results – Strictly Running
  22. ^
  23. ^ Sport24, South Africa. "Budd completes first Comrades". Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  24. ^ "Comrades Heartbreak for Zola". South Africa. 30 May 2013. 
  25. ^ Independent Newspapers Online. "Comrades a test of true grit". Independent Online. Retrieved 16 July 2015. 
  26. ^ "Comrades Marathon @ UltimateLIVE". Retrieved 16 July 2015. 
  27. ^ "Jacaranda FM - Budd dedicates run to Korkie". Jacaranda FM. Retrieved 16 July 2015. 
  28. ^ Sapa. "Pierre Korkie still captive in Yemen one year on". The M&G Online. Retrieved 16 July 2015. 
  29. ^ a b "Budd stripped of Comrades win". The Independent Online (South Africa). 12 June 2014. 
  30. ^ Gerald Imray (2014-09-26). "Zola Budd taking athletics authorities to court". Associated Press ( Retrieved 2014-12-31. 
  31. ^ [2]
  32. ^ "Afternoon Drama - Zola". BBC. 20 July 2012. Retrieved 20 July 2012. 

External links

  • Twitter accounted created for sharing her Comrades training experience
  • Zola Budd profile at IAAF
  • – Sporting Greats, Athletics: Zola Budd
  • – SI cover: Back on Track – Mary Decker-Slaney beats Zola Budd in London
  • Barefoot Running Book – Publication reviewed by Zola Budd's former coach with excerpts highlighting her career
  • – Dartford Harriers website with reference to Budd's race in 1984
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Mary Slaney
Ingrid Kristiansen
Women's 5000 m Best Year Performance
Succeeded by
Ingrid Kristiansen
Ingrid Kristiansen
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